$5M Donation for Agricultural Research at the University of Calgary

harvester machine working in a field

The University of Calgary recently received a major donation for the development of a new research center to help tackle issues facing Western Canadian farmers.

The $5 million donation came from John Simpson, the owner, CEO, and chairman of the CANA Group. Simpson recognized that the contributions of the agriculture industry to the Canadian economy are undervalued. He hopes that the new center will help inform and shape government policy to support agricultural and livestock businesses


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cattle in a field

What Type of Research will the Center Focus on?

The “Simpson Centre for Agricultural and Food Innovation and Public Education” will focus on the most pressing concerns for the Canadian agricultural industry. The center will research issues that affect Canadian agri-food and agri-business.

The demand for food is rising globally. With the right policies, Canadian ranchers and farmers have the chance to increase exports to help meet demand.

Several years ago, the School for Public Policy completed a review of the contributions of various resource sectors to the economy. The school found that the agricultural sector was being underestimated. To address this problem, the school has already identified areas for research at the new center.

The research conducted at the new Simpson Centre will focus on four specific areas related to agri-food and agri-business in Canada:

  • Trade policy
  • Climate change and the environment
  • Food and agriculture technology
  • Agriculture as a major resource sector

Trade policies have a major impact on Canadian ranchers and farmers. Trade agreements affect exports, which contribute significantly to the livelihood of the Canadian agricultural industry.

The school plans to research the impact of the US-China trade war on Canada and how the country can develop its own trade agenda with China. The school also plans to explore other trade agreements, such as the WTO Agreement on Agriculture and CETA. The WTO agreement stalled and the CETA agreement stagnated.

Through careful research, the school also hopes to improve trade diversification. Currently, most of Canada’s exports go to the United States and China. By working with foreign affairs experts, the school aims to reach emerging markets with a focus on Asian countries other than China.

The new research center may also find ways to increase the sustainability of the agricultural industry. Topics in this area include best practices for reducing GHG emissions and understanding global trends in food production, helping Canadian producers gain a competitive advantage.

Another interesting topic is agriculture technology. The school wants to explore how technology can improve quality control and aid the agricultural industry.

Who is John Simpson and the CANA Group?

John Simpson is the owner of the CANA Group of Companies. Simpson is a noted equestrian and rancher. He represented Canada in the international showjumping arena between 1972 and 1982. He also represented the country at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal and the 1978 World Show Jumping Championships in Germany.

The CANA Group started in 1942 as a concrete and construction company. John Simpson became president of the CANA Group in 1984 when his father, Jack Simpson, passed away. The CANA Group of Companies is one of the largest construction companies in the country. However, John Simpson also owns Simpson Ranching, allowing him to continue making his mark in the agricultural industry in Alberta.

John is considered a generous philanthropist, donating to a wide range of educational institutions. His donation to the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy is one of his many contributions.

entrance to the university of Calgary

Where Will They Build the New Research Center?

The new research center is to be built at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy. It is the leading policy school in Canada. Founded in 2009, the school was created to improve public policy in the country using a practical approach that brings a global perspective.

The goal of the school is to drive policy discourse through a combination of outreach, research, and teaching. The faculty includes scholars with experience in government, business, and the nonprofit sector.

Over the past decade, the school earned a reputation for independence and fact-based analysis. It plans to bring this same approach to policies that impact the agricultural sector.

When Will the New Research Center Be Completed?

The School of Public Policy released its announcement on February 7, 2020. A timeframe for completion of the new center was not announced. However, the school is already looking for qualified candidates to fill the position of Director of the Simpson Centre.

The position will be filled by an associate professor with tenure or an assistant professor on a tenure track. A selection committee began reviewing applications at the start of April.

The development of this new center may help shape future policies in a way that brings greater support to the agricultural and livestock sectors. This is a beneficial development for ranchers, farmers, and the rest of Canada as a strong agricultural industry helps support a healthy economy.

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